The End. How can two little words—a total six letters—be so exhilarating and yet so terrifying at the same time? After a year of work, I am about to type them at the end of my latest manuscript, 450 typewritten-pages long and 133, 516 words. “The End” will make it 133,518 words. I have typed The End twenty-three times in the past 29 years at the end of each of my books. Each time, it has been just as exhilarating—and just as terrifying.
How does a writer know when a book is really finished? That’s what makes it so scary—I’m never completely sure. Did I leave something out? Is there a loose end I missed? Should I have ended it differently? Of course by now I have re-written and revised this manuscript a dozen times, but the nagging worry that it isn’t finished never seems to go away. Maybe I could have made it just a little better with a little more time and a little more work.
Typing The End means it’s time to send it to my editor, who will be the judge of whether or not it’s really finished. And that’s another thing that’s scary—once I type The End, the manuscript gets sent out into the world to be judged and reviewed and rated and read by countless other people. For me, that’s as worrisome as sending my first child off to kindergarten.
But typing those two little words is also exhilarating. They mean I’m finished! I don’t need to sit in my office and work all day and sometimes every evening. I’m done! The End! In most other occupations I’ve had, the work was never done. As soon as one class of students moved on to the next grade, another class quickly filled their seats. As an administrative assistant, my in-box never emptied. As a waitress, the tables filled with more customers as quickly as I cleared them off. And don’t even get me started on housework and laundry and cooking being unending! But a book can be finished. Done. Complete. The story that once existed only in my imagination can finally be read and enjoyed by other people. I can hold the book in my hand and see the tangible product of all my hard work. Exhilarating!
Now I can begin my next task of creating new characters and a new setting, devising new plots and happily-ever-afters. I already know that next I’ll be writing book three in The Restoration Chronicles, based on the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Book one, Return to Me, was just released this fall. The book I just finished, Keepers of the Covenant, will be out in 2014. Soon I’ll begin book three, On This Foundation. But I won’t start writing yet. I’ll give myself a little holiday over the holidays first.
As I type The End and complete this book, a huge chapter in my personal life is also coming to The End. My husband Ken has just announced his retirement from his job as a college music professor after 22 years. Our three children grew to adulthood during that time. I wrote nearly all of my books during those years. And now this passage in our life will end and a new one will begin.
Ken and I spent many hours making this decision, taking it as seriously as all of the other decisions we’ve made at other turning points in our life together, such as when to get married, and where to live; the decision to move to South America and to move back to the U.S. two years later; the decision to start a family; to move to Canada and then to return to the U.S. eleven years later; and the decision to accept the job at this college 22 years ago.
I won’t retire from writing for many more years, God willing. But we’ve decided to move to a smaller house in a less-congested city, in a state where we can enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle and indulge our love of bicycling and nature. We’ve already begun the task of sorting through our possessions as we downsize and get ready for this new beginning. I’m excited—and scared.
We’ve reached The End of a huge chapter in our life. And like finishing another manuscript, I find the process both terrifying—and exhilarating. Because sometimes The End is just the beginning.